FDA places CAR-T cell trial on hold following patient deaths



The Food and Drug Administration placed Juno Therapeutics’ phase II ROCKET trial, involving CAR-T cell therapy, on clinical hold following two treatment-related patient deaths caused by excess fluid accumulation in the brain.

The ROCKET trial is a single-arm, multicenter phase II study treating adult patients with relapsed or refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia with an infusion of the patient’s own T cells that have been genetically modified to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that will bind to CD19-expressing leukemia cells. This treatment is referred to as JCAR015, and the ROCKET trial is only one of three current clinical trials testing its safety and efficacy.

Just before the ROCKET trial commenced, researchers added the chemotherapy drug fludarabine, which was successful in improving the performance of other immunotherapies, to the JCAR015 infusion. Researchers involved in the trial reported that the addition of this drug was likely the cause of the patient deaths.

Juno Therapeuticswill submit a revised trial protocol and patient consent form to the FDA before the hold is lifted, Juno reported in a written statement. The other trials led by Juno Therapeutics involving CAR-T cell product candidates are not affected.

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